Signs You Have A Runaway Design Pt. 2

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed some of the pitfalls for runaway designs and how they can derail a potentially good game.  They focused

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

About halfway through the testing session, a major event happened in the group that forced a major shift in rules and how the game fundamentally operated.  Not only did this force a completely new setup to be done, but it also required tweaking the dynamics of the whole table.  This was the primary selling point of the design in how it became a whole new game under certain circumstances, but it felt like unnecessary complication under the guise of being a unique twist.

Sometimes you come across a unique twist that meshes two or more mechanics that seems like pure genius.  Sometimes you make horrible abominations that turn away most potential players.  Rarely do you wind up on either extreme, usually finding some ground in the middle.  The results can be beneficial as you mire through the odd scenarios that can arise from mixing mechanics, but the potential bloat cautions against haphazardly doing this.

Tabletop? Or tables?

While charts and tables are a feature for digital and tabletop roleplaying games, they can really undermine the flow of gameplay and lead to bogging down the group.  The demo I was witnessing had combat charts with constant tracking of health, mana, hit percentages and such.  The game claims to be unfettered from the tabletop RPG trappings of needing pens and paper.  The fact of the matter remains that they chose to overload the players with charts that need external tracking and numbers instead of using the rules and components to help abstract those pieces of the RPG experience.

The game simply borrowed RPG elements and claimed to innovate on the record keeping that pervades the genre.  Innovation must come from a place of understanding.  How can we know whether our innovations have merit if we do not understand what else has been done in the space we’re exploring?  Research and development are both vital parts of the design process and we would do well to remember that they both have a place.

Getting off the runaway wild ride

I love innovation and testing the limits of what you can do with the medium.  Without constant pushing we can’t begin to discover new methods of play or examine all of the experiences available through gaming.  With that in mind, it is important to understand that we have a responsibility to our designs and audience to do everything we can to keep our designs from running away from us and becoming monsters that we can’t rein in.

Until next time.

Charles Weigand

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